Nota Bene, Part I

In his September essay for the New English Review, Dalrymple discusses the contents of a notebook he kept for a short period of time in which he catalogued various “public lies, half-truths and evasions” that he came across in daily life. One example…

The second entry was about telephoning a newspaper for which I have been writing intermittently for twenty years or more. The automated answering announcement is made by a woman with a terrible nasal whine, the kind of voice that for some reason is increasingly chosen for public announcements in Britain and nowhere else in the world. “Switchboard is very busy today” she said, to which I add in my notebook:

“Switchboard has been very busy today for several years. The lie is in the ‘today,’ with its natural implication that other days are different. They never are.”

But of course, if taken literally, it might be true that switchboard was very busy today as every day (because of an inadequate system, say). This is an admirable example – admirable from a certain phenomenological perspective, that is – of telling the truth and a lie at precisely the same time, and in precisely the same words.

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